(CNN) – With the oil dissipating faster that expected, Louisiana seafood officials want BP to lure the state’s fishermen back to the water.
Many of Louisiana’s 12 thousand fishermen have gotten accustomed to serving as cleanup workers since the oil spill began, drawing paychecks from BP instead of from the Gulf of Mexico.
Ewell Smith, executive director of the state’s Seafood Promotional and Marketing Board, is asking BP to offer a bonus to fishermen who return to their old jobs.
“It’s a commonsense approach to put fishermen back to work to help mitigate claims against them,” Smith said.
Under the state’s proposed “Back to the Docks” program, BP would pay fishermen an additional 30 cents for every dollar of seafood they catch. Now that BP is closing in on killing the well, company spokesman Larry Thomas said the oil giant is considering Smith’s proposal.
“No final decision. But we are very supportive of programs of guys going back to fishing,” Thomas said.
The president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, Jim Funk, says there’s a good reason to offer fishing incentives. New Orleans and Southern Louisiana restaurants could run out of fresh locally caught seafood within the week.
“We’ve got to get the commercial fishermen back to the water to catch the shrimp and the crabs and the fish so we can put it back on our menus,” Funk said.
But convincing the fishermen to go back to the water will be no easy task. New Orleans commercial fishermen Larry Spahn worries Americans will reject the state’s seafood, no matter what the government says.
“We’ll go back to fish but what do we do with what we catch if nobody wants to buy it,” Spahn said.
So far, officials with the Food and Drug Administration say none of Louisiana’s seafood has tested positive for oil or other contaminants. New lab results on the state’s seafood are due back within the next few days.
FDA spokeswoman Meghan Scott says those results could lead to the reopening of the vast majority of the Gulf’s waters to commercial fishing over the next week.
“We feel good based on the testing so far,” Scott said.